Bizzare things about Eastern: Mozart and Beethoven manuscripts

Imagine you’re at the Palmer Seminary music library, seated in front of an old safe crammed with legal documents, slowly sorting through each yellowed page. As you look through the next bundle of aged papers, you catch your breath, unable to believe what you’ve just discovered. You’re holding the lost manuscript of Mozart’s Fantasy in C Minor and Sonata in C Minor.

Although hard to believe, this really did happen in July 1990 to Judith DiBona, an accounting manager and 1980 Eastern alumna. According to a news brief on the Eastern website, the manuscript was an autograph score written by Mozart himself as he sat at the piano.

“It was Mozart’s working score,” music professor David Maness said, “the one and only. It had been published in his lifetime, but [the original manuscript] had not been seen by music scholars since 1801, 10 years after Mozart’s death.”

Maness went on to point out the smudged ink and crossed out measures in a re-printed copy of the score that indicate the composer’s thought process. “It tells something about the way Mozart worked,” Maness said. “Basically, it’s just interesting from a music historian’s point of view.”

The score, which was also found with manuscripts by Haydn, Strauss, Meyerbeer and Spohr, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Michael Schaffer, was sold at a London auction for $1,576,000. Maness said that they were bought by a Mozart museum in Salzburg.

As if this discovery wasn’t enough of a miracle, 15 years later in 2005, librarian Heather Carbo stumbled upon an 80-page autographed manuscript by Beethoven. Eastern’s news brief explains that it was the Grosse Fugue in G flat major written for piano four-hands. The last time it had been seen was in an 1890 catalogue description.

This piece was also put up for auction, and although bought by an anonymous buyer, it sold for $1.72 million on Dec. 1, 2005 at Sotheby’s in London. Maness explained that the money for both sales was used to benefit the Seminary as well as the music department.

So, how did these supposedly lost manuscripts wind up in the seminary? Apparently in the 1950s, Marguerite Treat Doane donated a collection of manuscripts which her hymn-writer father had previously acquired in England. “For awhile they were displayed in the music department of the chapel, but then put away and forgotten after there was a leak [in the ceiling],” Maness said. “Everyone knew there were some music scores somewhere, but [eventually] the urgency fades.”

For those whose treasure hunting spirits are stimulated by these stories, Maness hinted at still another opportunity. Rumor has it that a manuscript by Mendelssohn has yet to be found.

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